India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat on Tuesday following allegations from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India’s government may have been involved in the murder of a Sikh leader near Vancouver in June.
The move ratchets up a feud between the countries. Canada expelled a senior Indian intelligence official on Monday, the Canadian foreign minister said.
The Indian government explained its move as a response to “growing concern” over Canada’s activities.
“The decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh activist, was killed after leaving a temple in Surrey, British Columbia in June. He was an advocate for a separatist state in the country’s Punjab region, called Khalistan.
Trudeau told parliament Monday there are “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in his death. The Indian government has referred to Khalistan separatists as “terrorists,” and outlawed their movement in India.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said.
The Indian government vehemently denied the allegations, calling them “absurd and motivated.”
“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” India’s External Ministry wrote in a statement issued earlier Tuesday.
Nijjar’s son, Baraj Singh Nijjar, welcomed Trudeau’s remarks.
“It’s a sigh of relief for the family and the Sikh community here because from day one we kind of had this idea and knowledge that if anything would happen to him the Indian government would be involved,” Baraj Singh Nijjar told The Associated Press.
“It was just a matter of time for when the truth would come out. It’s finally coming to the public eyes that the Indian government is involved in this. It’s a really serious foreign interference case,” he said.
Trudeau said he confronted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the allegations at the G20 summit over the weekend. He said he also brought the issue to U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a close ally to both India and Canada.
A British Sikh activist died in Birmingham, England in June with his supporters claiming he was poisoned. Sunak’s spokesperson Max Blain told the AP police found no suspicious circumstances, adding that Canada is within its rights to investigate.
“These are serious allegations. It is right that the Canadian authorities should be looking into them,” Blain said.
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